NGO’s press release in conjunction with the 3rd Bali Democracy Forum and the International Human Rights Day
UPHOLD HUMAN RIGHTS WHILE DEFENDING DEMOCRACY
(Denpasar, 10 December 2010) The Bali Democracy Forum should adopt a human rights based approach in dealing with democracy and be more open to engagement with all stakeholders in democratization, a group of Asian non-governmental organizations (NGO) made the call today on the occasion of the International Human Rights Day.
The groups attended a two-day forum titled “Advancing Democracy in Asia: Challenges and Ways Forward”, jointly organized by Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA) and the Alliance of Independent Journalists (AJI). 28 members of non-governmental organizations from 11 Asian countries participated in this meeting which was held parallel to the Third Bali Democracy Forum (BDF III).
Paying tribute to the long history of the struggle of Asian peoples in exercising human rights in defending democracy, the NGO statement of the two-day forum urged the Bali Democracy Forum to honor this historical tradition and adopt human rights based approach in advancing democracy and peace building in the region.
“The Bali Democracy Forum must not shy from discussion of widespread gross human rights violations in the region. Human rights and democracy are two sides of a coin. One cannot sustain without the others,” said Yap Swee Seng, Executive Director of FORUM-ASIA, a regional human rights organization based in Bangkok, Thailand.
Responding to the theme of the 3rd Bali Democracy Forum on “Promoting Democracy, Peace and Stability”, he further commented that there will be no long lasting peace and stability if there is no respect and protection of human rights of the people, “The democracy crisis in Burma today is a case in point, the Bali Democracy Forum will have to address the gross and widespread violations of human rights and the democracy crisis in Burma as a threat to peace in the region if it is to remain relevant,” said Yap.
He said the NGO forum also expressed concerns on the increase of military spending in the region, which runs counter to the peace building and regional stability through disarmament and diverse resources away from important democratic priorities for the people such as education, health, housing etc.
“We welcomed the initiative by the government of Indonesia in organizing this annual forum for intergovernmental dialogue on democracy since 2008. However, regrettably, participation of other stakeholders, in particularly the civil society, is sorely lacking in the process”, said Rofiqi Hasan, the head of AJI Bali branch, one of the spokepersons of the NGOs.
The NGO statement reaffirmed the famous concept of democracy for the people, by the people, of the people. “We urge the Bali Democracy Forum to recognize the role of civil society organizations and involvement of the people as part of an important precondition of democracy through establishing a mechanism in future to facilitate participation and dialogue with the people in the region,” said Rofiqi.
For inquiry, please contact:
1. Mr. Yap Swee Seng, Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development, tel: +66 81 8689178
2. Mr. Rofiqi Hasan, The Alliance of Independent Journalists, tel: +62 8123830564
NGO Parallel meeting to the Bali Democracy Forum
‘Advancing Democratic Governance in Asia: Challenges and Way Forward’
Bali, Indonesia December 8-9, 2010
We, members of the non-governmental organizations and people’s movements from 13 Asian countries gathered together to critically discuss and reflect at the NGO Parallel meeting to the 3rd Bali Democracy Forum; the role of human rights defenders and people’s movement on “Advancing Democratic Governance in Asia: Challenges and Way Forward”, in Bali, Indonesia December 8-9, 2010.
We congratulate the continuing initiative of the Government of Indonesia and the local government of Bali for hosting and institutionalizing the Bali Democracy Forum (BDF) as a process in promoting regional and international cooperation in the field of democracy and political development amongst Governments in Asia since 2008.
We receive with enthusiasm the positive developments in many Asian States in opening up possibilities for and taking with great interest the workings of democracy in the region. In the same light, we also commend FORUM-ASIA and AJI-Indonesia for jointly organizing the 1st NGO Parallel Meeting to the 3rd BDF for the timely opportunity for Human Rights Defenders (HRDs) in Asia to share experiences, struggles and aspirations for democracy and peace; and to strengthen solidarity between and among social movements.
As we go through this meeting, we honor the long tradition and history of the peoples’ movements in Asia in their continuing struggle and quest for democratic and just societies. We pay special tribute to our fellow advocates who have sacrificed their lives for the cause of democracy, human rights, justice and peace.
Despite perceived rapid economic growth in some Asian countries, we remain concern that corruption has been one of the major challenges in the realization of good governance and democracy, especially on economic, social and cultural aspects. Civil society organizations and journalists, playing the role of “whistle blowers” against corruption have been subjected to systematic attacks including killing, threats and harassments, and fabricated accusations to deter them from monitoring the performances of governments and their instrumentalities. Human rights advocates in all countries in Asia continue to face the risks of personal safety and security in carrying out their activities towards the establishment and enhancement of democracy.
We affirm the values and principles of democracy. We believe that promotion of stability and security in the region is dependent on the active and meaningful participation of its peoples, respect and realization of democracy and the rule of law, professionalism in the bureaucracy, fairness in the administration of justice, independence of the judiciary and an environmentally sound sustainable development for all.
We note that the fundamental democratic rights and freedoms such as freedom of expression, association and assembly are undermined in the pretext of protecting national security and “war on terror” in almost all countries in the region. We are alarmed that Asian governments are introducing more laws that restrict and obstruct the works of advocates and human rights defenders and their organizations, which contradict the letter, and intent of the Bill of Rights and other international human rights instruments which they ratified.
We assert that human rights must be at the center of democratization and the peace-building processes in Asia. We are convinced that political compromises at the expense of peoples’ basic rights and democratic practices have no place in a community of caring and dignified societies. We believe that rule of law can never be established as long as perpetrators of violations remain free. Experiences show that failure to address impunity leads to perpetuation of injustice, inequality before the law, and denial of people’s rights to effective remedies. Towards this end, it is our urgent task to end the culture of impunity which has made a mockery of our established democratic institutions.
We believe that the main theme of the Third Bali Democracy Forum on "Democracy and the Promotion of Peace and Stability" provides opportunity for the Asian governments to consider and generate dialogue and discussion on good governance for the people, by the people, and of the people. That, “democracy and the promotion of peace and stability” necessitates inclusion of all stake-holders including the broad civil society and women’s participation in the consultation and decision making processes; the right to information, freedoms of opinion and expression, of thought, conscience and religion, of peaceful assembly and association.
Hence, we would like to make following recommendations:
· To recognise the role of civil society as partners in advancing democracy and human rights; and address pressing human rights issues which impose threats to democracy and constraints in the promotion of peace and stability of the Asian region including gross violations of basic rights, acts of impunity, hunger, unemployment, and violence against women and children;
· To establish national and regional mechanisms for dialogue and cooperation with various stake-holders towards ensuring democracy, rule of law; respecting, promoting and realizing human rights and development for all;
· To ensure independence of judiciary; accountability and transparency of the executive, and the legislative; in fostering democracy and addressing human rights issues including corruption in the prosecution of cases, enactment and implementation of laws, policies and guidelines;
· To establish a mechanism within the Bali Democracy Forum for meaningful dialogue, sharing and eventual participation of civil society of the region to the process.